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ARMY: MAINTAINING PROFESSIONALISM IS A MUST

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ARMY: MAINTAINING PROFESSIONALISM IS A MUST

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Nigeria’s democracy is passing through a very trying time. The Times are indeed tough and practically in all spheres of human endeavours, Nigeria that prides itself as the giant of Africa has been stretched beyond human imagination.  Apart from not having a robust political engagements through which the economy of the millions of Nigerians can be improved significantly, Nigeria’s human rights sector is facing tumultuous challenges just at the relationship between the military and the civilians has never been this sour to an extent that a lot of the media products that millions of Nigerians receive on daily basis are substantially and increasingly looking like there is a war between the military and the rest of the citizens. 

As the lead facilitator at the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), I took a lot of time and energy to understudy the media contents around the issues of the waning relationship between the military and the civilians. From most of the reports, it would seem that there is the urgency of the now for both the heads of the military and stakeholders in the organised civil society community in Nigeria to begin and deepen the process of conversations about how best to ensure that the Nigerian Army and the entire military completely and totally become professional because by so doing, the complaints of the multiple issues of human rights violations committed by some soldiers against the citizens will be minimized. This is because organizationally, the military is subordinate to elected civil authorities and these persons exercising authority as civil authorities can not possibly do so without the mandate of the people of Nigeria and it is this popular mandate of the civilians and indeed all of NIGERIANS that confers the legitimacy for them to exercise these essential authorities to shape the wellness and wellbeing of the nation State. 

I think it was the realization of the indubitable fact that the military is subordinate to the civilian authority that motivated the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai to consolidate and strengthen the conversations between the military and the civil society which culminated in the establishment of the department for Civil and Military Relations which is normally headed by a Senior General to underscore the excellent and phenomenal respect that the hierarchy of the Nigerian Army holds for the constitutional rights of the citizens especially given the overwhelming knowledge within the circles of the hierarchies of the military that constitutional democracy has come to stay. Constitutional democracy is unrealistic without respect for the fundamental human rights of the citizens. This salient message was also reiterated by the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur when he decorated some three dozen newly promoted military Generals.  The Army Chief by emphasising the primacy of constitutional democracy has also by extension adumbrated on the essence and necessity of mainstreaming respect for the fundamental human rights of Citizens in all internal security operations and this point needs to be constantly repeated to the hearing of the other ranks who are the people that do come in close contacts with the masses and they are the persons fingered for violating the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms of the citizens. 

The Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur emphasised the strategic place of constitutional democracy thus: “Democracy has come to stay. We will not tolerate any agent of destabilisation. The years of military misadventure in politics have never carried us anywhere. It is over,”.

“Do not hobnob with politicians. At this rank of two star generals, do not lobby for appointment. If you want to lobby for appointment, lobby the Chief of Army Staff and you can only do this through hard work, discipline and loyalty. The crop of officers (39 Major Generals) decorated yesterday will never be dragged into any interest that is contrary to the sustenance of democracy in our nation.”

“All our eyes are on you. We know there are several moves to get your attention. You must make sure that whatever you are doing, and when some persons approach you, you must act within the confines of the constitution.”

The reference being made to the Constitution by the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur shows the relevance of respect for the fundamental human rights of Citizens because Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria remains the fulcrum and the barometer for measuring the democratic viability or otherwise of a Sovereign State. Constitutional democracy without the dominant thematic areas of adherence to the sanctity of human rights is autocratic regime and not a democracy.  The North Atlantic Treaty organization is one of the greatest coalition of military powers from democratic nations.  

Major General H. Kujat wrote a seminal work that was published by NATO on its Website on “The Role of the Military in a Democracy”. His piece was powerfully articulate and conveys all of the things that we need to stress in our conversations about the place of the Nigerian Army and constitutional democracy vis- a -vis the watchdog roles of the media which should vigorously monitor the democratic  institutions to ensure that the respect for the fundamental human rights of Citizens is not jeopardised or compromised  or diluted.  

He wrote as follows: “First, I would like to say that I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you today. Your country is still in a difficult state of transition, which poses new and different challenges every day. It is, therefore, important that people like yourselves have a positive attitude and the dedication to shape events in the years ahead. This is an indispensable prerequisite to help your country normalize its relations with the rest of Europe and beyond and to become a functioning member of the family of nations that make up the Euro-Atlantic community.

With my presentation on “The Role of the Military in a Democracy” I want to offer you some ideas and food for thought which might be of use to you.”

The top General states thus: “Let me start by mentioning that the Role of the Military in a Democracy is an ever-relevant concern which was already raised by Plato 2500 years.

The principle of political control of armed forces as we know it today is rooted in the concept of a representative democracy. It refers to the supremacy of civilian institutions, based on popular sovereignty, over the de-fense and security policy-making apparatus, including the military leadership.”

Democratic control, he said,  should always be a two-way process between armed forces and society. In a democracy, firm constitutional guarantees should protect the state – including the armed forces – from two types of potential dangers: from politicians, who have military ambitions, and from military with political ambitions.

He wrote also that: “There is no common model of how to establish armed forces in a democratic society and how to exercise control over the military, says General Kujat. 

There is, however, a number of shared principles. They include indispensable prerequisites to organize and to guarantee a proper civilian direction and control of armed forces. These are essentially the existence of a clear legal and constitutional framework, defining the basic relationship between the state and the armed forces. A significant role of parliament in legislating on defense and security matters, in influencing the formulation of national strategy, in contributing transparency to decisions concerning defense and security policy, in giving budget approval and in controlling spending – using “the power of the purse” in issues related to “the power of the sword”

The General submitted that those models also include the hierarchical responsibility of the military to the government through a civilian organ of public administration – a ministry or department of defense – that is charged, as a general rule, with the direction and supervision of its activity. Other aspects of the place of the military in promoting constitutional democracy are: 

*the presence of a well trained and experienced military corps that is respected and funded by a civilian authority. It acknowledges the principle of civilian control, including the principle of political neutrality and non-partisanship of the armed forces.

*the existence of a developed civil society, with a clear understanding of democratic institutions and values, and, as a part of the political culture, a nationwide consensus on the role and mission of their military.

the presence of a reasonable non-governmental component within the defense community capable of participating in public debate on defense and security policy, presenting alternative views and programs.

He then  summed them up thus: “I assume that this is a solid and comprehensive yardstick for the measurement of armed forces in a democracy and their political control, which allows us to turn from theoretical considerations to reality taking my own country as a first example.

The relevant articles of the constitution foresee in summary the following mis-sions and roles for the Armed Forces:

They defend their own country and participate in the collective defense of the Alliance

They provide humanitarian aid

They perform search and rescue missions

They provide assistance in disasters

They provide assistance in accidents

They participate in maintaining public order, with and without arms, by  providing administrative assistance performing protective functions assisting the police in emergencies

To avoid any misunderstanding – in the latter case, armed forces are the ultima ratio when police and border guard forces are not able to handle the situation in a common effort.”

The Constitution, he says,  explicitly prohibits any action, which could disturb the peaceful togetherness of nations or which supports the preparation of any aggression. Worth mentioning is also that the rules of the International Law predominate over the Basic Law. This results in specific responsibilities and obligations for the government, the citizens and especially the soldiers. These models he listed out for member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty organization fully applies to the Nigerian Army. 

Last weekend, the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) organised a townhall meeting for the South East of Nigeria in Enugu whereby the civil society community in Nigeria and the media met and brainstormed on what needed to be done with the Military.  The theme of the meeting addressed by two top Mass communications and political Science scholars of the Enugu State University of Technology and the Institute of Management and technology  Doctors Chidiebere Ezinwa and Nwanze Emeka, was also attended by Youths and Students from South East of Nigeria. Chidiebere Ezinwa, LLB, BL. PhD, listed out the following roles for the media so as to ensure that the Nigerian Army remains thoroughly and comprehensively professional.  

On the SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY THEORY, he wrote thus: “This is a product of United States of America’s response to the abuse of free press by sensationalism and commercialism which threatened the stability of the country with the setting up of the Hutchins commission in 1947. The emphasis in this theory is that press freedom should be exercised with a sense of obligation to the society. It holds that the press has the right to criticize the government and institutions but also has certain basic responsibilities to maintain the stability of society. The press should not be used to destabilize the society but rather serve as an instrument for the recognition and promotion of public interest. The Commission after observing the frequent failings of the press recommended the following journalistic standard that the press should seek to maintain: ‘a responsible press should ‘provide a full, truthful, comprehensive and intelligent account of the day’s event in a context which gives them meaning’

• it should serve as a forum for the exchange of comments and criticism’ and be a common carrier of public expression’

• The press should give a ‘representative picture of constituent groups in society’ and also present and clarify the goals and values of society’

The commission frowned at the limited access granted to voices outside the circle of a privileged and powerful minority; sensationalism of the press and the mixing of news with editorial opinion.

Following from the postulations of this theory, the logical question to enhance our understanding of the issues at stake in the present work is to ask whether the Nigerian press seek and maintain the above standard. A negative answer simply implies that the press is not effectively engaged for achieving national interest, goals, values and aspirations. This will form the basis for our discussion on how to engage the press to achieve a responsible, accountable and professional armed forces in Nigeria. It is only a responsible press that can boast of this feat; a press that shares in the national interest and consciously sets out to pursue it in all it does. A press that fails to cover a vital institution like the army properly and adequately the with aim of making it responsible, accountable and professional especially at this time our national life cannot claim to have contributed meaningfully to nation’s interest and goals. A responsible, accountable and professional army would no doubt contribute to a stable society.”

On FRAMING THEORY, he wrote as follows: 

“Framing essentially involves selection and salience. To frame is to select some aspects of a perceived reality and make them more salient in a communication text through repetition or by associating them with culturally familiar symbols (Entman, 1993, p.52).  According to Hague and Harrop (2007, p.130) “The journalists words, as much as the camera operator’s images help to frame the story, providing a narrative which encourages a particular reaction from the viewer”.  Repetition and association technique of persuasion could be used to achieve this.

The media can also frame itself through the reports it carry about itself. According to Uwakwe (2010, p.187) “media framing means that media coverage shape how people see issues”. In other words, media can shape people’s perception of reality. Pavlik and Mcintosh (2011,p.292) opined that “traditional news media often decide how they will frame a story before the reporting is completed and sometimes before it has even begun”. This means that a journalist may beforehand decide how he / she wants an issue, a person or an event to be perceived by reporting them in a particular way or by using certain words, images or symbols in the report. Balnaves, Donald and Shoesmith (2009, p.68) explained that “framing makes certain information in a news story salient and depresses the importance of other information”. It is unarguable that the journalist can manipulate the audience perception of an event, issue, idea or person through framing.

It is also noteworthy that the way the media frame event, issue or ideas in their reports inversely influence the audience perception of media coverage. The media may be perceived to be fair, biased or otherwise as a result of their framing of an issue or event. In other words, the media could be judged based on the way they frame an issue, event or idea.

Pavlik and Mcintosh (2011,p.292) describe framing as one of the biggest problems of journalism today as the facts of a story are frequently forced to fit into the frame, or angle regardless of reality. Similarly, Lippmann cited in Wahl-Jorgensen and Hanitzsch (2009, p.179) observed that “of public affairs, each of us sees very little, and therefore, they remain dull and unappetizing, until somebody, with the makings of an artist, has translated them into a moving picture”. This is why experts believe that media people are in the business of selling meanings. Thus, Entman, Jorg and Pellicano (2009, p.176) rightly observed that “some communicators engage in framing strategically, seeking to exert power over outcomes by inducing target audiences to accept interpretations that favour their interests or goals”. These communicators, according to them, are politicians, bloggers, political satirists, editorial writers and pundits. They are however of the view that reporters and news editors in main stream national news media normally engage in framing without intending to push any particular policy or political goal (with the exception of certain party affiliated newspapers and government-owned broadcast newscasts in Europe). Pavlik and Mcintosh also believe that journalists are often not even aware that they are framing stories but only reflecting reality. 

AGENDA SETTING THEORY

The idea here is that the frequency and pattern of media reports on a given issue make the public consider the issues important. This is currently known as the “first level” of agenda setting’. It focuses on the amount of media coverage an issue or topic receives. The concern is the influence of the media on which objects are at the centre of attention. The “second level” of agenda setting considers how the media discuss those issues or objects of attention. The interest here on how people understand the things that have captured their attention. The quantity and quality of information made available to the citizens about the Nigerian Army will influence their attitude and behaviour towards the army. This theory further demonstrates the power of the media and its capacity to be employed in achieving a particular goal. What picture do you have in your head about the Nigerian army based on media report? What is your attitude towards the Army based on these reports? This shows that the media like a double edged sword could be engaged to achieve a desired goal, whether positive or negative.

LIMITATIONS OF RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND THE PRESS

Freedom of expression and the press is not absolute in any society including the advanced democracies in the world. The crucial nature of this right notwithstanding, it is limited by public interest. Thus, the right to freedom of expression and the press granted by Section 39(1) and (2) is limited by Section 39(3) which states as follow:

Nothing in this section shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society –

a. For the purpose of preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of courts or regulating telephony , wireless broadcasting, television or the exhibition of cinematograph films; or

b. Imposing restrictions upon persons holding office under the Government of the Federation or of a State, members of the armed forces of the Federation or members of the Nigerian Police Force or other Government security services or agencies established by law.

Other limitations to this right could be found in other enactments such as-

Section 51(1) of the Criminal Code Act which prescribes punishment for seditious publication;

Section 396 and 398 of the Penal code law which provides for the offence Criminal Intimidation and insult;

Section 373 of the Criminal Code which defines Defamation; Section 1(1) of the Official Secrets Act which defines classified matter;

Section 1(1) of the Cinematograph Act which prescribes film censorship;

Section 156 of the Penal Code Act and Section 117 of the Criminal Code Act which define Perjury”. 

On his THOUGHTS ON JOURNALISM PRACTICE IN A NIGERIA he said: “Obasanjo in his book MY WATCH observed that some sections of the media still cannot be credited with integrity and objectivity in their comments and reactions to issues, or in their criticism. As a result they do incalculable damage to the media in general and to themselves in particular. This he attributed to the adversarial press mentality of the colonial times which has persisted in Nigerian journalism practice.

In the same vein, Liad Tella, a regular contributor to the National Concord, in an article titled, “Taking a cue from the Western Press,” he said, “The critics (in the western press) are usually from informed positions loaded with facts and they are usually made in a manner that will lead to higher attainment of national goals rather than the destruction of the establishment.” However, Tella observed that it was the contrary in Nigeria, saying, “Unless you are violent in your criticism of government action, no matter how genuine the underpinning reasons necessitating the action, you are not a good journalist or a reporter. When you criticize with enlightened disposition you are labelled establishment reporter forgetting that the essence of criticism is correctness not destructiveness. What do we and the nation gain by such approaches?” he asked.

Obasanjo contended that, some media reports must be checked and crosschecked; some must be taken with a pinch of salt and yet some with a bag of salt. One must seek to know the ideology, interest, orientation, prejudice and bias of the writer, editor, proprietor, or organisation. He further opines that anybody can write any piece and get it published in almost any Nigerian media outlet if he can pay the price. He emphasised that,” with most media organisation, if the price is not right or you are not favoured, your statements or actions may not be printed or they may be misinterpreted, distorted, or misrepresented”.

The Owelle of Onitsha, the doyen of the Nigerian press, in a speech, “Pioneer Heroes of the press,” advised that, “The modern press in Nigeria should place more emphasis on its use for the public benefit.  He explained that, by twisting facts, by telling half-truths or untruths, the Nigerian press can mislead a great number of innocent people and thus distort our national image. By presenting facts to suit their purposes, journalists desecrate the tradition of a historic profession.”

Given the enormous power wielded by the press, it could be safely stated that a responsible press has the capacity to reform the Nigerian Army. A press that places the national interest, goals and aspirations over and above any other consideration can work harmoniously with the army to attain them.”

He attempted a response on the central question of the day which is: WHAT TO DO WITH THE NIGERIA ARMY? 

Then he says: “As a part of the executive arm of government, the army is also under the watch of the Media as the Fourth Arm of government or the Fourth Estate of the Realm. This watchdog function is clearly assigned to the media under Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as follows:

The press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.

By this section, the press is expected to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government and by extension the Army, to the people. Section 14(2) (b) specifically states that, the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. The press has a crucial role to play in that regard.  The watchdog function of the media is paramount here because the provision of this chapter is non – justiciable according to Section 6 (6) (c) of the constitution, under which these objectives are declared to be outside the jurisdiction of the law courts. These objectives are said to be fundamental because their progressive realization defines the essence of government and where they are abandoned, there might as well be no government at all. The question is: has the government done all it should do to ensure that the Army is well disposed to secure the citizens? For instance, it was reported by PR Nigeria that the facilitators of the foreign military contractors that supressed Boko Hara in preparation for the 2015 election has vowed not to return to Nigeria because of the humiliations, persecutions and prosecution of foreign mercenaries along with their Nigerian counterparts who participated in the operation after the emergence of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. They complained that some of their payment are yet to be made and classified and highly coded transactions were exposed as corruption. They further expressed disappointment and regret that some Nigerian military and intelligence officers who participated in the operation were not only retired but also prosecuted and convicted. They complained of difficulty in working in a country where operations, strategy and thinking were exposed to the media and judicial processes.

Hence, the media has a duty of ensuring the realization of these fundamental objectives by reporting the wrong doings and failures of government and its agencies, thereby making them accountable and responsible for their misdeeds and ineptitudes. The media practitioners need to understand this part of the constitution deeply to appreciate the enormous responsibilities placed on their shoulders. This section of the constitution clearly defines the essence of government and would no doubt provide material for proper interpretation of government actions and omissions especially with respect to the the welfare of the citizens.  

A deep understanding of this part of the Constitution and the doctrine of Military subordination to civil authority points to the need for the media to look beyond what the Army is doing to consider why they are doing what they are doing. The reaction of the Coordinator Defence Media Operations John Enenche to the call by North East governors to engage foreign machineries in the fight against Boko Hara attests to this need. He said it is the decision of the government and the people, not the Army. He is indirectly telling the media to focus their attention on the people and the government. Security is everybody’s business and the Army cannot do much without the government and peoples’ support especially in democracy. The handicap and dilemma of the Army is also reflected in his reaction to the statement by the Bornu state governor that the Army is overstretched. He said: “it is not for the military to say we are overstretched; I am not overstretched. If I say am overstretched, that means I don’t want to work. And if I say, I am not overstretched, that means, I am underutilised”. This is a very tactical way of acknowledging helplessness.  Reporters should look deeply into the allegations that the some leaders and communities in the Northeast are supporting Boko Haram and the terrorist are better equipped than the Nigerian Army. This may explain why the soldiers abandon their duty post or show less concern about the situation in the Northeast. The efforts of government needs to be thoroughly examined.

The media need to realise the sensitive nature of army operations with respect to security which requires that certain information should be kept away from the public. This remains a conflict point between the army and journalists. The chief of Army staff, Buratai had complained that some media reports give the terrorists advantage over the army. Media practitioners must realise that national interest were clearly established overrides every other interest. Nwagbaoso rightly observes that, “while the public has a right to know how they are being governed, they are not supposed to know everything as that may have grave security implications”. In the same vein, Jakande   declares that “matters of security are not for a market place.” The American Newsweek of October, 1990, reporting on US pre-invasion policy, stated that “the same day, the State Department stopped the Voice of America from broadcasting an editorial warning Iraq that the United States was strongly committed to supporting its friends in the Gulf.”

Embedded journalism is advocated in Nigeria at this point to reduce the friction between the Army and journalists, even though it will take a long time to build the type of trust and confidence needed for this kind of reporting. America embraced this genre of journalism following complaints of access denial by the Army during the Gulf War. The press should collaborate with the Army when national interest is at stake such as the current effort at restoring peace and order in some parts of the country due to internal security threat.

Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution cited above also forms the basis for investigative journalism. This is important to engender reform in the Army. By digging into s issues deeply in its various dimensions, in a police like manner, and contextual interpretation, this type of journalism would no doubt equip the army, the government and citizens with the necessary information to grapple with the internal insecurity in different parts of the country. Journalists by the nature of their job and training are closer to the people and can elicit useful information for the army, the citizens and the government.

Credible investigations need to be conducted into the allegations of human rights violation by government security forces including the army.   Cases of human rights violations involving the army if properly investigated, reported and followed up would help to establish the truth. Trial and punishment of culprit if reported would serve as a deterrent. This is not a classified matter that should be shrouded in secrecy. As this would give room for rumour and further smear the image of the army.

The army in the course of carrying out their constitutional function get into conflict with the civil society. The media can also provide a platform for the army and the public to express their grievances and settle their differences.  The media should give both parties equal opportunity to state their stand during such conflict. The media can also help to broker peace through their reports. Journalist should shun reports with the tendency of aggravating conflict.

Journalists can help promote understanding between the army and the civil society through human rights education. There is wide spread ignorance about the concept of Civil – Military relation in Nigeria. The citizens need to know the extent of their right while relating with the army. While the army need to appreciate the fundamental human rights of the citizens. Today, the army is used even in civil matters involving private citizen such as settlement of debts or bills.  Army serve as personal guards of some influential private citizens.

Journalist should understand and promote the core values and traditions of the army such as discipline, respect for rule of law, subordination to civil authority, regimentation, command and control structure, service, loyalty, spirit de corps, deterrence due to status and a pride of being. The media should constantly remind the army of these core values and traditions. The media should equally remind them of the importance of a community driven approach to security. They need the trust, confidence and acceptance of the people to succeed. The civil society should be educated on the need to support the Army with relevant information. This is obviously not possible in the absence of mutual trust and confidence. The media must consciously promote such cordial relationship. 

Journalists must earn the trust, confidence and respect of the army by upholding the time honoured canons of journalist practice such as truth, objectivity, balance, fairness. Journalists must be seen to be responsible.

Media should help build consensus on issues of national interest so as to guide the government in directing military operations. They should help defining and promoting national goals.

Right –based approach to reporting is also advocated in the present situation. This implies that the reporter sees human right as rights not needs to be fulfilled by a benefactor but as a duty owed to humanity by all levels of society including families, civil society, the media, the government and other stakeholders such as the law enforcement agencies. Thus the reporter assumes the position of a duty bearer well placed in the society to help ensure the realization of human rights as contained in relevant national, regional and international legislations.  They are expected to advocate for and promote human rights by highlighting the need to respect, protect and fulfil those rights. The reporter investigates, humanizes and interprets his/her stories with human rights at the centre.

The guiding principles in this type of reporting are accountability, universality, indivisibility and participation. The reporter holds all duty bearers accountable for all infringements on human rights in the society. No right is more important than the other, all rights must be attained. Every voice must be heard.”

The summary of the TOWNHALL MEETING OF HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) was to remind both the media and the Army, about their strategic roles towards promoting and respecting the fundamental human rights of Citizens because it is by so doing that the Army will maintain her professional status and both The civil society and the media should be constructive partners to the critical national institutions  that make our constitutional democracy viable and globally respected such as the Nigerian Army.  

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA). He blogs@www. thenigerianinsidernews.com.www.huriwa@blogspot.com.

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Police brutality after #Endsars: Why justice may elude many

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Police brutality after #Endsars: Why justice may elude many

By Princess Ekwi Ajide

On 26th October, 2020 when 29 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), constituted judicial investigative panels of enquiry to look into allegations of police excesses in Nigeria, occasioned by the #EndSARS campaign, many felt respite was coming at last but that seems to be far from the truth as Nigerians tend to forget too soon.

As at 30th December, 2020, the judicial panels had received a total of 2,500 petitions but unfortunately as is the normal with the Nigerian government, nearly four months since the panels were constituted across the states, there have been minimal prosecutions or compensations. Thankfully last week the Lagos State government announced a N10m compensation for victims of police brutality but many are asking how sufficient would that be or if the sum to be distributed among many victims will be enough to placate pains and anger of wounds of many years. This investigation though, is for another day.

The petitions bothering on allegations of human rights abuses such as extra-judicial killings, excessive torture of suspects, extortion, harassment, sexual and gender based violence, indiscriminate arrests, illegal detention and abuse of power by the police and other security agencies are still being looked into because many of the panels have little or no funding to continue the job.

What then becomes of the outcome or findings of the panels? Observers say this conspiracy of silence smirks of lack of political will or a deliberate connivance by government and government officials to support the police to cover up.

EndSARS protesters who were later reported to have been allegedly shot at by the military in Lagos, killing about 12 and scores injured had sought among other things, the establishment of an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of reported cases of police indiscretion, disbandment of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, among others and in response to these calls, states like Anambra, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Kaduna, Lagos, Imo, Ondo the Federal Capital Territory and a host of other states constituted a judicial panel to look into the allegations while the Federal government disbanded SARS but renamed and replaced it with what it called SWAT.

With the recent happenings in Nigeria however, one is wont to wonder if #EndSARS protests may have become efforts in futility since nothing has changed; citizens, journalists irrespective of age or status are still being brutalized by security agencies in Nigeria but the public seem to have forgotten so soon the carnage, loss of lives and property that followed the #EndSARS Campaign probably because these tragedies have become a daily occurrence and government is obviously catching in on the forgetfulness of Nigerians and may soon sweep under the carpet the many demands of the #EndSARS Campaigners and may not even punish the accused which will be like postponing the doomsday.

Apparently, #EndSARS was just one of the avenues for citizens to vent their anger and if these demands are not met appropriately, it may spell doom since the anger is still there just waiting for the opportunity.

Government may have succeeded in silencing the protesters but their anger has not been assuaged which is risky as something bigger than#EndSARS according to some religious leaders could be waiting to happen and when it happens, who knows? who or what will be caught in the line of fire?

Meanwhile, early in February, 2021, a group of youths again attempted to converge on the Lekki Toll Gate; scene of the alleged shootings in October 2020 to revive the #EndSARS struggle. Tagged #EndSARS2, the protest was however contained by security operatives who were on ground to maintain peace. Several arrests were made and the rally was terminated.

Efforts of the security operatives may have saved the day as hoodlums may once again hijack the rally just like it happened in October.

For this, the government needs to make hay while the sun shines as neglect of the agitations of #EndSARS may spell doom for Nigeria as a country if nothing is done and fast enough to placate the many agitations of the youths who in their best interest, should jettison all forms of violence

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Otò ge: Why Governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq enjoys massive support in Kwara

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Otò ge: Why Governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq enjoys massive support in Kwara

By Anjolaoluwa Folajimi

For several years, late Chief Olusola Saraki, Waziri Ilorin reigned supreme in the Kwara State politics. From the second republic down to the present democratic dispensation, his name made or marred the political fortune of many aspirants in the State.
His political clout transcend over three decades. The political legacy “Oloye” remained unrivalled until 2019 when the “Oto ge” Tsunami put an end to the political influence been enjoyed by the Sarakis in Kwara State politics.

With a change in government, courtesy of the “Oto ge” revolution, a political “greenhorn”, under the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq emerged as the Governor of the State of Harmony. The new Kwara helmsman, a consumate businessman is the son of the first lawyer from the Northern Nigeria, late A.G.F AbdulRazaq, SAN.

Though not known in the political landscape of the state and by extension, the country, Abdulrazaq was fully prepared for governance, having contested and lost the Governorship seat in 2011 under the defunct Congress of Progressive Change (CPC), he has attended to the demand of the office since May 29, 2019 with total zeal, dedication and commitment. A focused and committed leader, the 7th executive Governor of Kwara State in the less than two years on the saddle, has changed the narratives of governance in the State. A development that has endeared him to the people in the 16 local government areas of the state. Not even his political detractors and the oposition can denied the fact that the 61 year old Governor has turned the face of governance, delivered dividend of democracy, give purposeful leadership to the state and written his name on the hearts of Kwarans with indelible ink.

Despite the rot in the system and the downturn of the economy, Abdulrazaq has brought his ingenuity to bear in turning the almost comatose fortune of the state back of its heels.

In the words of Ambassador Nurudeen Mohammed, a Chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress and Nigeria’s immediate past Ambassador to Malaysia, “Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq remains a man of the people and he stands tall as a man of honour among the majority of our party members in the state, in spite of the unfair demarketing campaign launched against his administration by some party chieftains and their co-travelers in the opposition. This is not by chance. Not only has the Governor demystified the office of Governor with his uncommon humility, simplicity, and prudence, he has redefined the story of our state in many positive ways. Whether in health, education, road, or water, the Governor has touched lives in many ways never seen before. He has strategically taken governance to the people such that there is no electoral Ward in the state that cannot point to one or two things that they have benefited in just 18 months of his administration.

“A modest and humble personalty, the Governor who has driven his own private car since day one of his administration to date. Here is a Governor who lives in his own house till date. Here is a Governor who is not taking salary. Here is a Governor who is willingly opening up his government for accountability through the phenomenal social audit process. Here is a Governor who just wants to deliver his campaign promises to the people, despite the biting economic realities. Here is a Governor who gives every part of the state a fair sense of belonging by always identifying with them in time of cultural celebration or mourning, and extending government’s patronage to every segment of the state. Today, Kwara is a model state on the continent in youths and women inclusion in government.”

The retired diplomat rated the Governor high in the health sector. According to him, the health sector of the state has received about the highest priority even before the advent of Covid-19 pandemic.

Mohammed further said, “the administration has started rehabilitation works across dozens of decrepit primary healthcare facilities. Long-abandoned routine immunisation and vaccination is back. For the first time, Kwara now has isolation centres equipped with modern gadgets like ventilators, defibrillators, patient monitors, and others. Its oxygen plant has been revived. For the first time, the state now has ambulances with capacities to manage patients in critical conditions on the go. Indeed, Kwara is now listed as A-list state in healthcare sector.”

The story of education sector of the state has continue to beat the imagination of Kwarans. Priority attention was accorded the sector, which had hitherto suffered neglect by previous administrations leading to the state been blacklisted from accessing from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) fund for more than seven years before his advent as the Governor.
It is on record that Kwara State under Abdulrazaq, has accessed a backlog of N7.1bn UBEC counterpart funds with a matching grant of N7.1bn to gradually reposition the schools. Aside from the upcoming UBEC intervention, the state on its own is carrying out renovation works in at least 43 basic schools. With the UBEC funds in the kitty, no less than 600 basic schools are to get facelifts while teachers are also to be trained.

Worthy of commendation is the transparent process of recruiting 4701 qualified and competent teachers into our public primary, junior and senior secondary schools in the State.

Abdulrazaq’s developmental efforts are not limited to public institutions. In the wake of the novel Covid-19 pandemic, he extended his hands of kindness to Proprietors of 1,119 privately cowned schools in the state. Soft loan were given to help cushion the effects of the pandemic due to shutdown on public places on their schools and teachers.

Recalling Governor Abdulrazaq intervention in the provision of portable water, Hon. Abdulmumin Katibi, a one time member of Kwara State House of Assembly said, “in May 2019, water tanker was the source of potable water in most parts of Ilorin, the capital city, even in the Government House. Today, Pipe-borne water is back and stable in the metropolis while nearly 500 boreholes have either been dug or rehabilitated across the state. No fewer than nine water works have been fixed since this Governor came on board while contracts for more have been awarded. With water situation being tackled, Kwara is keying into the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), a key component of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 to promote hygiene and end open defecation. Under this scheme, many schools and hospitals across the state would now for the first time get tap water and pour-flush toilets.”

Urban and rural road infrastructure since Governor Abdulrazaq assumed office has continued to receive attention. The administration has fixed over 100 rural and urban roads/culverts/bridges. Many agrarian communities are now getting standard roads, those hitherto cut off from civilisation are being linked, while at least 500 rural roads are to be fixed under the World Bank-enabled Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP) arrangement for which the administration had earlier paid counterpart funds. These road projects are spread across the senatorial districts, deliberately linking agrarian areas to the urban centres.

Modelled after President Buhari’s Social Investment Programme, Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP) is the Governor’s multi-faceted and nonpartisan response to the question of extreme poverty and government’s poor attention to the vulnerable. Under the scheme, at least 21,623 petty traders have accessed soft loans to stay afloat while over 10,000 transporters who could not work during the COVID-19 lockdown were supported. Similarly, already-enumerated 10,000 vulnerable and poor senior citizens, from age 60, are now getting monthly stipends under what would be the state’s first ever institutionalised social protection scheme.

The scheme is also offering free digital training to young people to help them cope in the new economy. Over 3000 persons received training in July last year while 10,000 more are undergoing a richer version of the course in the second phase of the programme in conjunction with Wootlab Innovation and Grow With Google. A total of 30,000 young people are billed to benefit from the training within three years.

It is on record that the federal government has indeed hailed Kwara State’s version of the Owo Isowo (TraderMoni) for its innovative features, such as the inclusion of BVN of the beneficiaries. This is just a few of the many interventions Governor Abdulrazaq has made to lift our people out of purverty. The interesting thing about him is that he sees governance as an affair that transcends party loyalty, and this explains why he has become so popular with the masses, to the chagrin of his traducers!

To achieve the desired transformation in the State, Governor Abdulrazaq’s administration has positively changed the narrative of staff welfare in the state civil service. There is now regular payment of salary. No more percentage payment and promotion of staff has resumed while arrears of salaries and allowances dating back to as far back as 2012 are now being paid. Besides, pensioners now enjoy regular payment of pensions. A sustainable arrangement for payment of gratuities on monthly basis has now been put in place.

However, the unprecedented achievements recorded within this short period is now being threatened by some self serving political leaders, with dangerous sense of entitlement, greed and lust for personal gains are out to forment trouble.

It is a known Convention in the ruling All Progressives Congress that the Governor of a state is the leader of the party in the state. This explained why the likes of Minister of Information, Lai Labode, his counterpart, Minister of State Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki and Akogun Oyedepo have failed in their bid to highjack the party machinery from the Governor.

Despite a well sustained campaign of caluminy by this set of individuals, the political rating and public perception of the Governor continue to assume a constant rise.

An instructive development was the recent endorsement of Governor Abdulrazaq by the kinsmen of the Information Minister from Irepodun Local Government area of the state. Lai Mohammed kinsmen and APC leaders who publicly identified with the Governor include former Kwara State Commissioner for Information, Oloriewe Raheem Adedoyin, a member Kwara State House of Assembly, Hon. Tayo Awodiji, Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Princess Bukola Babalola, Prince Shuaib Olanrewaju, Barr. Teju Ogintoye, Gen. Lasisi Abidoye(rtd), Elder Agboola Adewumi, Conrade Ben Dintoye, Alhaji Raheem Olokoba, Prince Samuel Alebiosu, Mrs. Deborah Aremu, Gen. Lasisi Abidoye(rtd), Mrs Shade Omoniyi, Chief Raphael Awotunde, Mr. Yomi Adeboye, Mr. Femi Ajibade, Dr. Sule Popoola, Mr. Debo Adeleke, Hon. Azeez Yakubu and others.

Declaring their support for the Governor at a Press Conference recently in Ilorin, the Minister’s kinsmen through their spokesperson, Hon. Olabanji Olayemi, who is also the Chairman, Kwara South caretaker committee, was quick to refer the Minister to some laudable projects of the Governor in their area. The projects include, “the completion of Taiwo Road, Omu Aran-Esie Museum Road asphalt lay, renovation of court building in Omu Aran, free surgery, state government social investment programmes such as Owo Arugbo and Owo Isowo, comprehensive renovation and construction of additional facilities in Oro Grammar School, Oro.

“Renovation of block of 3 classrooms with an office and store, GSS, Omuaran, renovation of a block of 4 classrooms, CHS, Ajase-Ipo, renovation of a block of 4 classrooms and workshop building, Esie/Iludun Technical College, renovation of examination Hall, GSS, Omu Aran, renovation of a block of Laboratory, PMC, Oro-Ago, and many mores.”

In their verdict, Olayemi said, “In the light of the enumerated achievements of the governor in Irepodun LGA, it is not difficult for us to publicly declare unequivocal support for His Excellency, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the Governor and our party leader in Kwara State.”

The voice of people of Irepodun is on a daily basis being re-echoed from all the nooks and crannies of Kwara State. If in less than two years, Governor AbdulRazaq has recorded these milestone achievements spread across all the wards in the state, no sooner than later, he may emerge as the new political force that will dominate the political horizon of Kwara State for long.

Folajimi is a member of APC in Kwara state.

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OKOROCHA: ABUSE OF POWER AND BRIGANDAGE BY A GOVERNMENT OF HATE

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OKOROCHA: ABUSE OF POWER AND BRIGANDAGE BY A GOVERNMENT OF HATE

By Frank Tietie

I have not hidden my personal admiration for Rochas Okorocha who became a billionaire long before he held any major political office in Nigeria.

By privilege as an adjutant counsel to Okorocha in one of his cases, I have personally engaged him in exchanges and briefings for many hours and I am convinced beyond doubt, by moderate standards that he is a good man, especially in comparison to the average Nigerian politician.

By dint of hard work and the natural business knack of the Igbo man, Okorocha became very rich and did not need to be the governor of Imo State to make money. He made money without government.

No politician or business man has ever done what Okorocha has achieved for human development through the Rochas Foundation which has offered free quality education to thousands of orphans and indigent students in Nigeria and all over Africa. These he started before he became governor and has continued after leaving office as governor of Imo State. I will therefore, not apologize to anyone for loving such a man who possesses such humanity.

So what has Rochas Okorocha done?
The man possesses a worldview that sets him apart from the normal Nigerian politician. I see him as a highly misunderstood person yet his works speak better for him. He is so people oriented, driven by his uncommon brand of philanthropy while his business ideas spin so much money. That is why he is so loved by many and equally hated by his political rivals for being so different.

If Okorocha stole money while in Imo State Government House, the EFCC would know, considering the staggering number of petitions currently against him. He is about the most investigated former governor by the anti-graft agencies.

Unlike the typical African politician who would pillage state resources and hide in Swiss banks or buy property in Dubai, Okorocha put his major investments in real estate and education in his home state of Imo because he didn’t have any skeletons to hide.

Today, impassioned by the seeds of hatefulness, some people and a current government in Imo State have decided to engage in a brutish vendetta to satisfy their hatred, by attempting to label and confiscate property linked to Okorocha in Imo State. Can they try that with his real estate investments in Abuja? They don’t even have a court order. Imagine the lawlessness!

So will Nigeria ever witness standard policing? Must the Nigeria Police be associated with everything untoward? My answer is NO!.

But if Okorocha must be arrested by the Nigeria Police for any reason, should it be made a political festival of insults and humiliation of Okorocha himself, with supervised beatings and manhandling of his aides by sympathisers of Governor Hope Uzodinma? These have been reported to have allegedly taken place on the orders of Governor Uzodinma himself and under the supervision of the Nigerian Police.

Again, this is an abuse and misuse of Nigeria Police powers. Therefore, the clamour for state police has been further defeated when contemplated with the likes of Governor Uzodinma in mind. Such brigandage and barbarity will be the order of day in states where the Governor fails to realize his duty is to preserve order and good governance by upholding legal standards in whatever circumstances.

Governor Uzodinma and many rivals of Okorocha appear to be so afraid and intimidated by the continued towering personality of Okorocha who is currently one of the most ardent voices in the Nigerian Senate. It is also rife that he wants to run for Nigeria’s presidency in 2023 to become the first Igbo President of post civil war Nigeria.

Whereas Senator Rochas Okorocha ought to be the pride of every Igbo person at this material time yet, it is his kith and kin from Imo State that want to destroy the good name of one of their own, purely out puny and petty rivalry. Who does that in modern Nigeria? From Second Republic Barkin Zuwo to Peter Odili, which former Governor, however so vilified has been so badly mistreated by his own people, the way some Imo people have decided to do to one of their own? Like they would always say: “The South eats up it own while the North protect its own”. And one wonders and complains about the continued reign of Northern hegemony in the midst of Southern hate amongst themselves?

The saga of Okorocha arrest by the Nigeria Police with the reported associated violence involving some officials of Imo State together with a band of name calling elements against Okorocha and his aides fall below the standards of law enforcement even for an emergent country as ours.

The Inspector General of Police is therefore urged to urgently investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest of the Senator and former Governor and ensure that proper policing standards are adhered to in order to prevent a perception of witch-hunt of Senator Rochas Okorocha thus, engendering disaffection among his numerous supporters in Imo State and all over Nigeria.

Frank Tietie
Human Rights Lawyer,
writes from Abuja

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